There is an interesting link between personal hygiene and mental health. When you improve your mental hygiene, you improve your cleanliness automatically.
Bizarrely enough, mental hygiene is almost identical to personal hygiene. Both come down to unconscious actions.
The primary cause of bad hygiene habits is unconscious movements, like putting your finger in your mouth. In other words, it’s the things you do without thought that lead to lack of cleanliness.
The same is true for mental hygiene. It’s our automatic thoughts that make our minds impure.
Surprisingly, research suggests meditation may be the best way to improve both cleanliness and mindset because it helps us to weed-out the unconscious movements that cause a lack of cleanliness in body and mind.
The link between personal hygiene, mental health, and mental hygiene
Remember when your parents watched you brush your teeth, and how they went on and on about how important it is to develop cleanliness? Research shows they were right.
There are considerable health problems that come from lack of cleanliness. Teeth decay because they haven’t been adequately taken care of. Facial zits occur from lack of cleanliness. Worse, you put a dirty finger in your mouth and spread a nasty virus to your intestinal tract.
Just take a look at the sheer number of health problems caused by bad personal hygiene.
symptoms of bad hygiene.
Cold, flu and other viruses
There are more than 30 serious health problems caused by bad hygiene. Seriously, wash your hand, guys!
There are more than 30 serious health problems caused by bad hygiene. Seriously, wash your hands, guys!
Why you need both
Not only is it essential to have good hygiene for your body, but it is also vital to have good mental hygiene (mental health).
Julie Hirsch is a leading authority on the subject of mental hygiene, and the author of the eye-opening and highly recommended book, Struck By Living: From Depression To Hope.
Julie tells THE DAILY MEDITATION:
“What is mental hygiene? Each person’s answer will be unique, but there are some things necessary for every plan. All of us need daily attention to the basics: sleep, nutrition, and exercise. Most of us also need a measure of strong social support, as well as cultivation of purpose, perspective and humor in one’s life. “ (READ MORE)
Like physical hygiene, mental hygiene comes down to the basics:
- Taking progressive steps to reduce negative thought patterns.
- Making sure you’re thinking positive.
- Checking you’re getting your mental nutrition, which includes things like having healthy levels of compassion, or even asking yourself whether you feel happy today.
The crazy thing is, while most people take good care of personal cleanliness, mental hygiene is often ignored.
The average person washes their hands more than ten times a day. But your mind is arguably far more critical. And for that reason, every time you wash your hands, you should also take a moment to consider how clean your mind is.
How personal hygiene and mental hygiene relate
It turns out there is indeed a weird link between hygiene and mental health.
We know from meditation and Ayurveda that there is a mind-body connection. The fastest way to a healthy body is to have a healthy mind.
If you have a lack of cleanliness either physically or in your thinking patterns, you can probably blame your mind.
One of the primary causes of bad hygiene (mental and physical) is unconscious movements or thoughts.
If you can’t stop putting your finger in your mouth, or you can’t stop thinking negative thoughts, the reason is entirely psychological.
Simply consider the number of times you unconsciously scratch a part of your body without washing your hands first. Such movements allow dirt and impurities to enter your body, where they can cause anything from an innocent spot to a virus, or worse. These incidents usually occur because we make unconscious movements, like scratching and fidgeting.
Then there’s the sheer amount of times we are oblivious to our surroundings.
The other day I was making dinner when I cut into a cauliflower I had bought at Metro. I had used it the day before (to make cauliflower rice). And I must have been oblivious to it. Because this time when I looked at the cauliflower, I found an entire swarm of tiny green maggots residing in it. Eating maggots? Not good hygiene. And it was entirely caused by a monetary lack of awareness.
Cleaning your mind will clean your body too
You can say that cleaning up is the key to good hygiene.
But the average person is in their own home for less than half the day. The majority of the time, we are in public spaces or at work, where we have limited control over our surroundings. And it’s not like there are soap and a tap everywhere we go.
Cleanliness is not the key.
The key is being aware of where you’re putting your hands.
In other words, being more mindful. More on this in just a sec.
Now consider the amount of unwanted thoughts that swarm in your mind like flies.
Scientific research shows the average person thinks 70,000 thoughts per day. 56,000 of those thoughts contain negativity.
Those negative thoughts are a chief cause of depression and anxiety. And scientific research shows that depression and anxiety are leading causes of bad personal hygiene.
Cut the problem off at the source (the negative thoughts), and you cure the problem.
Are we starting to impress on you the link between personal hygiene and mental health yet?
Why mindful people have clean bodies and minds
So by now, you realise there is a direct link between cleanliness and mental health.
People who have high levels of Mindfulness also tend to be cleanly. This is because they are more conscious of both what they are doing with their body and what they are doing with their mind.
The best way to stop bad hygiene habits is to be more aware of them.
If we were aware of the fact that we just touched a table a bug was walking on, and now we’re putting our fingers in our mouths, we would probably stop.
If we were aware of the negative thoughts corrupting us every day, and the fact that they are taking a toll on our psychological wellbeing, we would take progressive steps to start thinking positively.
The key in both cases is simple: being aware of the bad habits we have. Because the moment we are aware of what we are doing, we can change those behaviours.
We need to be more aware, more conscious. And the key to being more mindful is developing Mindfulness.
Ways To Improve cleanliness mentally and physically
You want the best of both personal hygiene and mental health. And Mindfulness is the key to getting there.
Imagine the difference it would make if you could stop the unconscious movements and thoughts that create bad habits.
Imagine not fiddling with your face and hair. Imagine not scratching. Imagine not thinking all those negative thoughts. Imagine no longer touching all those sources of dirt and bugs that get into your body.
It’s possible. All it takes is an increase in awareness. In other words, it takes an increase in Mindfulness.
Mindfulness is the state of living in the present moment with complete awareness. When we are mindful, we are aware of our thoughts, our movements, and our environment.
Mindfulness makes us more aware of the sensations in the body. Importantly, we become consciously aware of bodily sensations before we unconsciously act on them.
This is huge.
Typically, we are not aware of an itch until we start scratching it. Before we know it, we are scratching an itch, possibly with dirty hands, and thereby introducing impurities to the body, which can lead to health complications.
Mindfulness makes us aware of those bodily sensations before we act on them. And this gives us the power to act in healthier ways.
One good hygiene tip, for instance, is to always wash your hands before touching your face. But if an itch causes you to start scratching unconsciously before you’ve washed your hands, then you’ve lost before you’re even aware of it.
When you are mindful, however, you are aware, and that awareness gives you control of your actions, allowing you to swap bad habits for good ones.
Mindfulness also improves your mental hygiene. It makes you more aware of negative thoughts that are leading you to unhappiness, to stress and to those other conditions we all suffer from. So you end up with good personal hygiene and mental health.
As well as practising the specific meditation technique called Mindfulness, we can also practice mindfulness habits that increase our awareness. These make us more aware, which in turn improves both our cleanliness and our mental hygiene.
Research proves meditation improves both mental health and personal hygiene.
You may have read about the more than 100 benefits of Mindfulness.
However, until now, no research has linked meditation to improved hygiene.
Considerable scientific research proves that meditation is an effective natural way of improving your cleanliness of both mind and body.
One of the leading causes of bad hygiene is depression. Depression causes us to believe that we do not matter, and those feelings demotivate us, making us less likely to take care of ourselves.
Another leading cause of bad hygiene is anxiety. Anxiety sufferers make more unconscious movements, such as scratching the body or fidgeting with their hair when they are nervous. These increase the rate at which impurities are transferred to the body.
Conversely, confidence and self-love lead to cleanliness. When we value ourselves, we are more likely to take care of ourselves.
Clinical research proves meditation increases confidence and self-love and reduces anxiety and depression. After reviewing more than 39 studies, it was concluded that Loving Kindness Meditation (a type of meditation in which we imagine extending love to people, including to ourselves) leads to a decrease in anxiety and depression and an increase in confidence and self-love. Studies suggest that these mental traits lead to an increase in good physical and mental hygiene because they make us value our mind and bodies more.
Meditation has also been shown to improve sleep.
Research was conducted in which 49 adults with sleep problems were given either mindfulness training or a traditional sleep hygiene program. The study shows that focused attention meditation improves sleep quality and helps to reduce daytime fatigue.
Good hygiene is a state of mind. That’s true of mental hygiene, and it’s true of personal hygiene too.
Depression. Anxiety. Mindlessness. These are the main reasons why people lack cleanliness. And meditation helps with them all.
Meditation improves self-love and confidence, decreases anxiety and depression, makes us value the mind and body more, and make us more aware of our actions and our surroundings. And this all leads to good hygiene habits.
If you’re looking to improve your mental wellbeing at work, consider our corporate meditation classes.
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Paul Harrison is a passionate meditation teacher who believes in genuine, authentic meditation. He has more than 15 years experience in meditation and mindfulness. He studied meditation in beautiful Oxford, UK, and Hamilton Ontario Canada, and earned his degree at Staffordshire University.
“My goal is to provide the most authentic meditation sessions so you can harness the power of your own mind for personal transformation” – Paul Harrison